Last Sunday I participated in an alternative to a baby shower called a Mother Blessing.

I knew I would enjoy it because my fun-loving, color-loving, people-loving daughter would be the expectant mother.

Not only did I enjoy this event, I was deeply moved.

Everything was exquisitely beautiful. We gathered at Coterie — a woman-focused co-working space in the

Frick Building penthouse in downtown Pittsburgh.

Twenty-five friends took turns offering blessings and a bead.

Photo: Becca Tudi. Co-hostess Kristi Powers guides the conversation.

Kate’s friends named her, offered words of encouragement, blessing, and prayer (including a funny, pointed one by Tina Fey).

Co-hostess Melissa Frost places a flower crown on Kate. So many special touches!

Co-hostess Melissa Frost places a flower crown on Kate. So many special touches!

The traditional shower gifts were absent.

Everyone contributed food, a blessing, and a bead to place in a necklace Kate will take with her when she goes into labor.

Many of the beads had stories — a grandmother’s rosary, special souvenirs, stones, antiques and brand-new ones.

As I listened to Kate’s friends offering her words of encouragement, I was struck by how many ways Kate has found community — Goshen College friends, clothing swap, bowling team, the business she shares with Emily Levinson, Propelle, and the Highland Park Kitchen Staples Co-op.

A number of women said Kate welcomed them as newcomers to Pittsburgh. The themes in their narratives were about Kate’s kindness and creativity, the very traits she exhibited from the time she was an infant herself.

I was flooded with memories of my baby girl.

I purchased these old baby clothes at my Grandfather Hess's sale. We wore them in early springtime 1984.

I purchased these old baby clothes at my Grandfather Hess’s sale. We had our pictures taken in springtime 1984.

Thirty-three years later, here we are.

Kate and me, Lydia at T-48 days and counting.

Kate and me, plus Lydia at T-48 days and counting. Psalm 139: 13 “For you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

The amount of love in that room moved most of us to tears at some point.

It lingered on as we enjoyed dinner at our favorite Pittsburgh restaurant with Nik and Stuart, who chose to go to a Pirates v. Yankees baseball game while we were doing our women thing.

Kate’s instinctive response was to wish everyone could be loved and named and cherished like she was.

I join her in this wish. And that’s where we need your help.

Is there someone in your life who needs a blessing? A note? A phone call? Maybe even a ritual? Please take an action of love. Maybe you’ll want to share an idea for others to consider. Remember, “Love is Like a Magic Penny.”

Do you recall participating in a blessing service of any kind that had meaning to you? Tell a bit of your story below!

Shirley Showalter

44 Comments

  1. Jeanette Bontrager on April 26, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Love this idea!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 26, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      Thanks, Jeanette. Hope it blesses you in some way. Maybe the idea will inspire another ritual relevant to some other transition or milestone.

  2. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on April 26, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    I can feel the love in that room from here.

    What a way to water the roots of past, present and future as well as the roots of motherhood. May all mothers be so blessed.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 26, 2017 at 3:22 pm

      Dolores, you have a gift for feeling love even at a distance. It was palpable.

      We did water a lot of metaphorical roots. We also drank water infused with strawberries, basil, and pomegranate seeds. So refreshing.

      Amen to your blessing — to all mothers and all who mother.

  3. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on April 26, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    What a joy to receive a new baby into your family! I rejoice with you and pray that all will go well.
    Being in my early seventies, there are so many stories I could share.
    Planting a tree in honor of a baby who left us too early is something I shared with my blog readers in a post dated June 24th, 2014.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 26, 2017 at 3:30 pm

      Thank you, Elfrieda, for these words of blessing. They come from your own wide-open heart.

      Birth is a very scary time for both mothers and babies. One of the reasons the mother blessing was so poignant is that all of us know tragedies — stories that sear us or even more, experiences that leave a permanent hole in our lives.

      For those who would like to read your story, here is the link: http://ens-intransit.blogspot.ca/2014/06/remembering-is-way-of-meeting.html

  4. Saloma Furlong on April 26, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Oh, what a beautiful story! Kate looks radiant. Is this her first baby? She is the embodiment of anticipation and hope. And what a beautiful way to celebrate that hope and anticipation with her!

    I remember a meaningful ceremony for a good friend’s daughter who was about to get married. Women her mother’s age came together to wish her well and offer advice about taking that step into marriage. Needless to say, it was beautiful.

    Several years after leaving the Amish, when my boys were little, I had an earring ceremony with 10 of my women friends a few weeks after I had my ears pierced when I was ready to wear my first dangling earrings. It was like being initiated into womanhood in my chosen culture.

    Now more than ever, we need to tell these stories of caring and kindness as a counterbalance to the national and world news. Collectively, I believe lovingkindness expressed all over the world can overcome evil. So thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 26, 2017 at 3:56 pm

      Thank you, Saloma. Kate was indeed radiant. This is her first baby, our third grandchild.
      I love the variation on the mother blessing your friend gave her daughter. In this crowd, I was at least 30 years older than the average age in the room. A few children joined us, which made the idea of Kate’s baby even more real.
      The earring blessing made me smile. Yes to chosen family!
      I so agree that the world needs as much loving kindness as we can embody and express. With so much evil around us, we must concentrate even more on love.

  5. Laurie Buchanan on April 26, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Shirley — A MOTHER BLESSING, what a wonderful concept. Kindness and creativity? Clearly Kate is her mother’s daughter.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 26, 2017 at 4:26 pm

      Aww, thanks, Laurie. Kate may have learned some of this from me, but she had it in her very being from day one.

  6. Richard Gilbert on April 26, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    Such a neat ceremony and such an evocative question. What comes to mind is a ceremony a couple conducted, decades ago now, to bless their new house. I remember bubbles were involved . . . and prayers/intentions. We didn’t know them really at all, but it’s a rather vivid memory. I remember feeling kind of dubious at the time, yet at the same time intrigued, maybe even a tad moved. It was significant, and remains so to me. So, if nothing else, there’s something in ceremony!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 26, 2017 at 5:16 pm

      You probably would have enjoyed the baseball game more than this event. 🙂 Though it too, contains many rituals.

      Ceremony stays with us longer than words alone. One of the things I learned both in church and at the Fetzer Institute where we had rituals for many things — seasons, transitions, giving, and gathering.

      The rational mind may rebel, but the body picks up wisdom anyway. Thanks for offering this experience, Richard.

  7. Melodie Davis on April 26, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Something different seems just right for Kate, the “kind and creative”! Many showers I’ve gone to have the “blessing” element in a low key way of writing prayers or “advice” for the prospective parents, which often end up being a form of blessing.

    I love Kate’s flowing beautiful dress and the two of you together, ripe with anticipation. I hope and pray all goes well. I have enjoyed helping with two births now and those experiences–along with the births of our own daughters–were certainly highlights of my life thus far! Labor was excruciating but so exciting and exhilarating in the end, even when I was the one in labor.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 26, 2017 at 9:23 pm

      Yes, Kate is always attracted to creative ways of being and doing. Thanks, Melodie, for pointing out the fact that many showers also include blessings. I should hasten to add that she had a more traditional baby shower in Lititz, PA, after her grandmother’s 90th birthday party. She loved bringing aunties and cousins and mothers and grandmothers together in the Hershey Home Place now known as Forgotten Seasons. And she got many lovely gifts for the baby there. That event was mostly family. The Pittsburgh event was mostly friends.

      Thank you for your hopes and prayers for a safe delivery. As Kate said often, “I’ll take all I can get!”

  8. Merril Smith on April 27, 2017 at 7:32 am

    Your daughter looks radiant, Shirley, and you look so full of joy. It must have been a memorable experience, filled with so much love. I saw some photos on FB that you were tagged on, and I couldn’t figure out what the event was. I thought perhaps it was your daughter’s birthday, and she was honoring you as her mother.

    I think I’ve felt something like this at each of my daughter’s weddings. No religious blessings, but especially in my younger daughter’s more intimate wedding, I felt that everyone who was there, truly wanted to be there for them.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 27, 2017 at 8:05 am

      Thanks, Merril. This is the type of event that makes me glad I have a blog. After almost nine years of writing here, I sometimes am tempted to stop. But then something like this happens, and I can document both the event and the feelings in a better way than putting them in journals and scrapbooks that my kids will have to deal with after I’m gone.

      If you want to read a “prayer” that almost any mother, regardless of religious persuasion, could agree upon, read Tina Fey’s in the link above. 🙂

      • Merril Smith on April 27, 2017 at 8:10 am

        I can understand wanting to think about and document such an event.
        I did read Tina Fey’s prayer. Yes, wise and funny. 🙂

      • Shirley Showalter on April 27, 2017 at 8:10 am

        I should add that of course the other benefit of a blog is to make friends with people I’ve never met and who don’t share my religion but who do share many basic human values, especially kindness. In other words, you. Thank you for sharing yourself so generously online.

        • Merril Smith on April 27, 2017 at 8:14 am

          That is very kind, Shirley. Yes, that is a wonderful benefit of a blog, and I share your feeling. I’m very glad I’ve made your acquaintance, which I did through other people I’ve met from my blog. It does make the world a bit smaller and less scary knowing there are so many kind and thoughtful people out there. 🙂

  9. Marian Beaman on April 27, 2017 at 8:14 am

    A Mother Blessing – what a creative alternative to a baby shower. I was fascinated that Kate chose to dress in white, reflective of all colors of the spectrum. And a flower crown, a capital adornment.

    There is so much to appreciate here, including the thoughtful questions you always pose. Yes, we are observing the ritual of curating our aunt’s possessions, an expression of our love and esteem. And sometime down the line, Cliff and I want to invite friends and family for our house blessing. I have napkins inscribed in silver with a B, and even know the theme: “Soli deo gloria.” But time to schedule the event – now that’s the rub.

    You and Kate look radiant: your baby having a baby, simply lovely!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 27, 2017 at 8:21 am

      You always notice interesting and symbolic aspects of life, Marian. Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

      You have given so much of the last decade of your life to your family, Marian, especially to your mother and Aunt Ruthie. Curation is a real form of blessing, for all the reasons Merril and I were chatting about above.

      A house blessing with Bach’s own signature statement about creativity for the sake of divine glory. When the time is right, it will happen. The letter B on the napkins won’t fade.

  10. Phyllis Wulliman on April 27, 2017 at 10:27 am

    So lovely. This sort of event is a wonderful way to honor new mom and baby! The picture of you and Kate is full of energy – just beautiful, full of love. Blessings on Kate and your entire family as you anticipate this blessed event!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 27, 2017 at 10:34 am

      Thank you, Phyllis. I know your blessing will mean a lot to Kate, as it does to me. I remember the pictures we took of Kate and Austin together when they were babies. You will always have a connection to the milestones of our family life, as we feel connected to yours.

  11. Tina Barbour on April 27, 2017 at 10:37 am

    Reading about the Mother Blessing for your daughter has blessed me, Shirley. What a wonderful idea! Your daughter is absolutely beautiful and radiant, and she looks so much like her beautiful mother. I hope all goes well for Kate and the baby. I am thinking now that this could be a way to honor a co-worker who is pregnant with her third child. With her first baby, she was given a shower by her co-workers. With her second, it was called a “sprinkle.” When we were discussing a party to have for her third, she expressed concern that people might be “tired” of baby parties for her. But a baby is always a reason for celebration and blessings. 🙂

    • Shirley Showalter on April 27, 2017 at 10:49 am

      Tina, the “sprinkle” idea made me laugh, and yes, the blessing might just be a way to both help your colleague through the birthing process for the third time and to celebrate a precious new life. The bead idea was so simple yet deeply meaningful.

      Maybe there should be a blessing ritual for a new cat. Someone who loves the furry children of the world as much as you do deserves a celebration too!

  12. Sherrey Meyer on April 27, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Shirley, thank and Kate for sharing this special time with us. A lovely alternative to the standard baby shower. I’m sure Baby Lydia felt the awesome love in that room too. I can’t imagine why the boys opted for a baseball game. My best wishes to Lydia and her parents and grandparents.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 27, 2017 at 11:42 am

      Ha, Sherrey, I know. How could a baseball game compare? The new dad-to-be was very involved in helping set everything up, and so was granddad. They attended the baby shower in PA and heard the stories after this one. It was nice to have multi-generations and both genders at the first event and to have a special space for women at the second.

      Thank you for adding a “bead” of blessing.

  13. susan scott on April 27, 2017 at 10:41 am

    All the photos are so lovely Shirley. Their is no better way for your daughter, surrounded by love and beauty, to introduce the new baby into this world. May the infant’s steps tread lightly upon the earth and may s/he know that mother love makes the world go round; father love is essential; grandparents love is another kind of essential, all radiant and glorious. May the baby bring great joy to all.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 27, 2017 at 11:43 am

      I love the way you included all kinds of love, Susan. If I could wave a magic wand for the future of the world, I would want every child to know all of these.

      Thank you for your bead of blessing also.

  14. Joan on April 27, 2017 at 10:42 am

    It sounds like it was a wonderful day. Here’s to Lydia and the new life she will bring to our world, as well as to her mama, and mama’s mama!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 27, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      Thanks so much, Joan. And here’s to you too. Hope we get to see some theater together before the grannynanny year begins.

  15. June on April 27, 2017 at 10:52 am

    All I can say, is WOW! How blessed Kate is have such a wonderful core of women that wanted to bless her, and bless her they did. I have never participated in a blessing service.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 27, 2017 at 2:03 pm

      June, that was all I could say also. Wow. I hope you get to participate in some ritual like this in your own life. Like Madeline L’Engle said in A Wind in the Door, if all of us were really and truly named, the world would be at peace.

  16. Martha Mikel-Hong on April 27, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    My heart just sings to read about these different forms of blessing. I too have a daughter named Lydia and a ritual I have used with my own children and any newborns I have encountered is to look deeply into their eyes and send them silent messages of love, comfort and reassurance. Both of my children had very difficult births and the quiet, silent messages of reassurance directly into their eyes seemed to be soothing. Telling a child that you love them, God loves them and everything they will be OK is calming on a stressful day. The laying on of hands and praying with someone…is magical and healing in a way that cannot be explained. Touching very lightly and sending a silent prayer from the heart is a blessing that changes both peoples’ lives.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 27, 2017 at 2:05 pm

      Martha, thank you so much for sharing this ritual. I will remember you when I first gaze into Lydia’s eyes. I have also witnessed the power of laying on of hands several times when I became Goshen College president. I was moved in my inner being. You describe the experience so well.

  17. Lanie Tankard on April 27, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    I love this idea!!!

    Kate looks radiant, and I know she’ll be a wonderful mama because she has a wonderful role model!

    When we moved into our current home, we had a house blessing. Invited lots of friends. A bagpiper led the way into the dwelling, walking through each room in the empty house to dispel any evil spirits. Our family followed—carrying a new broom, a fresh-baked loaf of bread, and a family Bible. Our friends came in after us. Later, when we discovered a shower drain pan leak, one of us asked, “Did anyone tell the bagpiper to be sure to walk into the shower?” Oops! Ah well, we’ve had many marvelous years here….

    Blessings to one and all in your new roles. Hugs abound!!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 28, 2017 at 8:45 am

      Thank you, Lanie. Love this story! Ceremony and story bind friends and family together long past the time of the actual ritual.

      Hugs back to you, Grandma!

  18. Audrey Denecke on April 27, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    I will join the love chorus in support of the mother blessing gathering. Sadly, I’ve found too many wedding and baby showers are centered on the material with silly games. This focus on creating a shower of blessings on the mother to fortify spirit and build a circle of women’s support around her is so touching. Gifts can always follow when the new, little, life arrives. The focus here is on celebrating the particular mother, life-bringer.
    On my 40th birthday (some time ago), I wanted no part of the common black balloons. Instead, I hosted my own dinner celebration, invited a small group of close friends. Invitations made clear, traditional gifts were not wanted. I asked my friends to gift me with a poem they loved, to share. We ate, we laughed, we drank wine, and read poetry to each other. The poems offered me recognition, encouragement, and flowed to me with love. I felt deeply held.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 28, 2017 at 8:48 am

      What a lovely name –“love chorus.” Yes, that’s what it is, Audrey.

      And that birthday ritual sounds wonderful. I have participated in a few similar ones, and you are giving me an idea for the next milestone birthday.

      Hope your writing is going well!

    • Audrey Denecke on April 28, 2017 at 9:12 am

      I was looking for a prayer to offer yesterday. I found this early this morning, offered from a mother’s heart.
      “Oh, God, thank you for the child I carry … I walk the world in wonder. I see it through new eyes. All is changed, subtly but singingly different. The beauty of sunlight upon the grass, the feel of its warmth on my arms. It is cradling me in tenderness as I shall cradle this child one day. I am mother and child in one, new as a child myself.”
      – Marjorie Holmes

      May blessings be showered on mother and child.

      • Shirley Showalter on April 28, 2017 at 8:11 pm

        How sweet of you to find and share this lovely prayer, Audrey. Thank you.

  19. Shirley Showalter on April 29, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Sheryl Shenk, my spiritual director, gave me a copy of this blessing from one of our favorite Celtic Christian writers, John O’Donohue https://scienceofmom.com/2010/07/01/blessing-for-a-mother-to-be/

    Blessing for a Mother-to-be
    John O’Donohue

    Nothing could have prepared your heart to open like this.
    From beyond the skies and the stars this echo arrived inside you and started to pulse with life, each beat a tiny act of growth, traversing all our ancient shapes on its way home to itself.

    Once it began, you were no longer your own. A new, more courageous you, offering itself in a new way to a presence you can sense but you have not seen or known.

    It has made you feel alone in a way you never knew before, everyone else sees only from the outside what you feel and feed with every fiber of your being. Never have you traveled farther inward where words and thoughts become half-light unable to reach the fund of brightness strengthening inside the night of your womb. Like some primeval moon, your soul brightens the tides of essence that flow to your child. You know your life has changed forever, for in all the days and years to come, distance will never be able to cut you off from the one you now carry for nine months under your heart.

    May you be blessed with quiet confidence that destiny will guide you and mind you. May the emerging spirit of your child imbibe encouragement and joy from the continuous music of your heart, so that it can grow with ease, expectant of wonder and welcome when its form is fully filled.

  20. Elaine Mansfield on May 13, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Gorgeous mama, daughter, and grandchild-to-be. I feel the blessing and wonder if the baby is here by now. I have an upcoming Hospice bereavement group where we’ll focus on ritual and meditations to help move through grief. This is a blessing for me and for at least some of those who attend.

    I’m showering inner and outer blessings on my younger son and his love Jenna. They moved here from San Francisco and stayed at my house for almost a month. They just rented a beautiful two bedroom, two bath cabin three miles from the family land. We’ll see lots of each other and garden together. Along with gathering furnishings for their new place, my biggest contribution was going to the SPCA with Jenna and saying yes (with my dog’s agreement) to a mellow girl who needed a home. Timing is a little inconvenient, but Sami is a winner. So the practical blessing of dog sitting and helping train a new girl who wants to please but isn’t always sure how to do that. It’s my practical way to say “yes” to the partnership of Anthony and Jenna. May there be more blessings to come.

    • Shirley Showalter on May 13, 2017 at 7:10 pm

      Thanks for adding your graceful words to the memory of this lovely day, Elaine. I sing in a hospice choir, the Blue Ridge Threshold Choir. One of our songs is “You Are Not Alone.” I sent it to Kate and we were both moved by the words. I am struck by birth and death as threshold times with some similarities in the pain and fear and grief and joy. They even use some of the same words: doula and midwife.

      I love reading about the way you are welcoming Anthony and Jenna into your world. And so nice that you have an activity like gardening to help you adjust to the new kind of relationship.

      Stuart and I will be renting a house down the street from Kate, Nik, and the baby starting in August. And no, she isn’t born yet. Her due date is June 12. Thanks for holding them in your heart.

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